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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis County Jail Inmate Suffered A Stroke Before He Died

St. Louis County jail
File photo
St. Louis County released more information about the death of Jo'von Mitchell, a jail inmate who died in December.

A St. Louis County jail inmate suffered a stroke before he died at a hospital in December, according to an autopsy  report.

Jo’von Mitchell, 31, died of a brain hemorrhage related to a stroke, the autopsy report released Tuesday said. His death wasn’t caused by trauma or drug use, though “Mitchell’s age and the location of the stroke are uncommon,” according to a press release from the county. 

The county released information about Mitchell’s death after coming under pressure from a citizens advisory board and county council members to be more transparent. 

The type of stroke Mitchell had is more likely to be fatal, according to the county. The autopsy report said Mitchell was found unresponsive in his cell and sent to St. Mary's Health Center. A few hours later, he was sent to St. Louis University hospital for more care. His health continued to decline until he died on the morning of Dec. 27, according to the autopsy report. 

Members of the county’s justice services advisory board, which is expected to monitor the jail, complained two weeks ago that officials were leaving board members in the dark when it came to the deaths of Mitchell and other inmates. 

A few board members, reached by phone Tuesday, said they thought the release of the information from the autopsy was an improvement, but they hope that more information will be forthcoming.

“We’re all working to get the kind of transparency that the [inmates’] families deserve, and I’m hoping that jail administrators will keep moving in that direction,” said board member Jeff Smith. 

In 2019, five people died while in the jail or shortly after leaving its custody. The advisory board was revived six months ago, in part to try to provide oversight of the jail’s medical services. 

The first four inmate deaths in 2019 raised questions about whether inmates were getting proper health care at the facility. After those deaths, the jail came under new leadership and new protocol was put in place for dealing with sick inmates.

But board members are concerned that they don’t know yet whether that protocol was followed when the fifth inmate, Mitchell, got sick and died in late December. The autopsy report released Tuesday gave few details of what the jail staff did to assist Mitchell when he became ill. 

County officials have said they are trying to be “as transparent as possible regarding the care of patients in our custody,” but say the county must also abide by federal laws regarding patient privacy and protect the county staff.

“The county counselor’s Sunshine working group is currently reviewing the internal reports of Jo’von Mitchell and the four other inmates to see what we can release to the public in a way that does not infringe on the rights of inmates or their families, or on county employees,” said Beth Orwick, the county’s chief attorney.

Orwick said the county would have more to say about what can be released on the inmates’ deaths later this week.

Members of the justice services advisory board who work in health care have contended that there are ways to write reports without compromising patient health records or staff identities while still providing useful information to the public. 

Some members of the county council are also growing tired of the lack of information about the jail deaths.

“We’ve received nothing about any of the deaths,” said Councilman Tim Fitch, a Republican and the county’s former police chief. “All of them are a concern of mine.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the availability of Jo’von Mitchell's autopsy. The report has been made public. 

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